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What’s a World Book Capital, and Where Is This Year’s Located?

The UNESCO award is a huge honor, and the winner receives massive recognition.


ooks are a culture’s memory blanket. Not only do they entertain and delight, they also carry fingerprints of the past and roadmaps for the future. So, the value a reader derives from those written words is indeterminable. UNESCO’s World Book Capital program acknowledges the role of books in the development of a culture, a city, and a country. 

Every year, a World Book Capital is chosen to encourage the culture of reading. There is no financial prize with this title, but the World Book Capital receives massive recognition. Readers should take a note of the city that gets crowned because all through the year, the winner organizes activities to promote reading and books. The nomination process demands that cities map out the activities and their plans for the year (including how they will secure funding), so you can be sure that the winner has a comprehensive, book-focused yearly schedule to interest readers.

For travelers, it’s a great way to get acquainted with a region’s culture, their writings, and their authors—their voices will echo through your travels if you pick up the books when you’re there, attend a talk or a workshop, or participate in the city’s book fair or local events.

Reader-Friendly Destinations

The first city ever to be presented with this title was Madrid in 2001. The program has come far in over 20 years of its existence. Now, a book-loving traveler can explore the destinations in new ways and find different perspectives while following the trails left behind by authors, writers, and poets. 

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In 2018, Athens was given the honor of being a World Book Capital and the Greek city celebrated with the “Books Everywhere” campaign. There were more than 600 activities planned for book lovers and a majority were free. Writers and book professionals took visitors on 48 different walking routes and showed them literary sights such as cafes and bookstores, landmarks, and places of inspiration for authors.

The 5th-century monuments of Acropolis and the Parthenon are must-visits when you travel to the birthplace of democracy, but imagine how fun it would have been to attend a session with Greek authors, borrow a book from a moving library, participate in book and poetry festivals, and attend a concert or a movie screening. 

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, the successor in 2019, hosted 100 events including workshops, talks, conferences, and creative writing retreats, set up a beach library, and ran book donation and recycling drives. The Sharjah International Book Fair in 2019 made the Guinness World Record of “most authors signing their own book simultaneously in one location.” Theater- and movie-goers received free copies of books that had been adapted into plays and movies. Another highlight was a panel discussion with Indian author Anuja Chauhan and Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor, who played the lead in the movie adaptation of Anuja’s cricket-themed novel The Zoya Factor.

2022’s Winner: Guadalajara

Currently, the Mexican city of Guadalajara holds this recognition. 

Mexico’s second-largest city remains a hidden gem. It is a hub of history and art, and a food-lover’s paradise. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Octavio Paz Library, named after the Nobel Laureate. Originally built as a chapel in 1665, the façade was added in the early 1800s. Nearly a hundred years ago, artists David Alfaro Siqueiros and Amado de la Cueva painted a fantastic mural inside that took inspiration from the Mexican revolution. You must enter this institution to take a look at its vast collection of Spanish works. 

Related: 10 Reasons Why Guadalajara Is Mexico’s Most Underrated Cultural Destination

This year as a World Book Capital, it is giving travelers multiple reasons to look beyond the usual Mexican destinations.

According to UNESCO, Guadalajara was selected for its “for its comprehensive plan for policies around the book to trigger social change, combat violence and build a culture of peace.” The city is planning to regain its public spaces with reading activities and strengthen identities with story-telling and poetry. The purpose for them is to work on human rights, gender equality, and peace, with activities at libraries, bookstores, and libraries.

October is a good time to visit when the city hosts the month-long Fiestas de Octubre with live performances and parades. But November brings the largest book fair in the Americas and the second-largest in the world after Frankfurt. The Guadalajara Book Fair is scheduled from November 26-December 4. It’s the biggest Spanish-language event in the world with representation from publications from Latin America and Spain. If you want to explore the world of Spanish literature, book your winter travels now.

Related: 14 Things to Eat and Drink in Guadalajara, Mexico

It’s also interesting that no American city has ever held the title, but the Canadian city of Montreal was one of the early World Book Capitals in 2005. On April 23 of next year (World Book and Copyright Day), the baton will be passed to Accra in Ghana.